31st July 2012 onwards - Tony Brocklebank - 30T 455388 4799668
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On Wednesday 31st July Big Steve directed a cast of thousands including Tom Howard, Bob Toogood, Ed Mason, Diane Arthurs, and others to site 288 – La Bodega, in Secadura, where we were met with a short walk to an obvious hole with a great draught which Steve had ideas we should be digging. As all the water passing through the Matienzo valley resurges in this area it sounded promising.
We had a quick look upstream, and decided it was squalid, before inserting Tom into a short side passage just inside the entrance which appeared to run downstream to an obvious tiny resurgence just below the entrance.
I had a quick look around and above the entrance and spotted a small draughting hole slightly above and to the right of it. Within a few minutes I could see Tom below excitedly yelling that it got bigger and continued, and he'd found a pot, and it went off to the left. Then all went quiet. Had he gone grabbing? Realising we couldn't get in the same way as Tom, it was simply too tight, Ed went down for digging tools but before he got back I'd managed to open the top entrance and was almost in. It did get bigger, but consisted of lots of squalid small tubes, Tom returned and I managed to get nearly as far as he had, with tight passages going off in three directions from a junction. Not Bottlebank sized, so time for a thinny style team. I exited and Tom and Di went in pushing. Not a bad start to our first full day in the valley – perhaps thirty or forty metres of new passage. Shame about the size.
While Tom and Di were busy pushing even further Ed and I got bored, and decided to have a wander. We set off and Ed asked what we were looking for, by this time we must have been nearly twenty metres from 288. I suggested a draughting hole would be good – a bit like the football sized one I was pointing at. Digging fever set in for the second time and again within a few minutes we’d opened up a hole to a slot which dropped into a chamber, perhaps 4m high, with small holes in the floor, a passage to the right and a second passage straight ahead ending at a blank wall. The passage to the right ended at a smaller chamber, with a few uninspiring holes at roof level, the holes in the floor may lead to La Bodega, and a tiny hole at the top of the 3m high blank wall appeared to be the way on. Backing and footing up this revealed the 'blank' wall was actually a vertical sand blockage in a 4m or so high canyon like passage – with cold air blasting from a small final flow hole.
Ed came in with digging weapons and we set to work cutting steps up the wall until we could dig the top, Di, Tom and Bob soon joined us and taking it in turns we revealed an small awkward crawl at roof level, with a nasty looking drop on the far side. After an hour or so the spoil heap both sides had grown to the point where Bob felt confident enough to attempt the climb down and after turning a corner entered another chamber, on a cross joint, with a climb up in the roof to the left and a howling draught emerging from an awkward and disappointing looking narrow and twisting floor slot (the continuation of which may again lead to La Bodega). Maybe Tom could get through – no – he was cold and he’d gone for a walk. The Plumbers bar was beckoning and we called it a day.
Bob and I were both pretty excited about the draught, but not too optimistic about the prospects – it looked like a big job, but despite that there was no trouble recruiting a team for the following day. Pretty much everyone returned, along with Liz, Sue, Nigel and Dan Hibberts. Dan, Bob, Nigel and I headed underground with Nigel surveying behind us with Tom (we thought) and Dan reached the slot first but announced he wasn’t grabbing and was simply going to have a look. We’d decided capping would be worth a try and after half a dozen shots Bob (as the smallest -Tom is never there when you need him – he’d gone for a walk again) was inserted. He confirmed he could probably get through, but was too old or something, and would like more rock taking off. Dan and I were happy enough about this and so more demolition took place. After an hour or so Bob was shoved in again and we could hear him disappearing, 'it gets bigger', 'I’m on hand and knees', 'I'm standing up', I followed, then Dan and at some point Nigel gave up surveying and joined us.
The slot broke into a short crawl and then out into a chamber, where Bob was busy ferretting in the roof. Dan and I spotted a small hole low on the left (much bigger now after some attention with a lump hammer) and through this the cave quickly enlarged to a junction with what seemed at the time to be a never ending 10m high, 10m wide passage. In fact it did end, with draughting chokes at both end, side passages at the end of the left hand branch led to a crawl up into a fairly extensive high level area and also led to a complex of phreatic tubes with daylight and the new entrance at the end of one, after a couple of hours digging this provides a much easier way in.
More work has been carried out at various digs with some extensions and there are good draughts at four spots or more. Di and Simon Cornhill took over surveying and so far the cave has around 350m of passage surveyed with, at a guess, enough to survey to take it to around half a kilometre length. The strength of the draught hints at big passage further into the hill.
The breakthrough and initial exploration all occurred during Lenny’s funeral and wake – and over several glasses of Selecta in the Plumbers Bar the cave was named in his honour, and in memory off all his hard work in the Matienzo over the last thirty odd years.
He’d have loved it!
We then returned to the valley where we held an alternatve wake, but I can’t remember the details (or even which bar) so it must have gone well.
Below 1: On the day of opening up the cave Below 2: Tom emerges from the new entrance Below 3: The main passage in the cave Below 4: Climbing out of a rift extension